Accepted paper:

Contesting the good citizen: gentrification of a Dutch social housing estate


Martijn Koster (Radboud University )

Paper short abstract:

Urban renewal produces sites of contested citizenship. In a social housing estate in Utrecht, NL, gentrification policies impose a discourse of good citizenship on the tenants, based on social upward mobility. The tenants' views of their lives, the state and political agency counter this discourse.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses how urban renewal produces sites of contested citizenship. It presents a case of urban renewal of a social housing estate in the underprivileged neighborhood of Overvecht, in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands. In this neighborhood, apartment buildings are being thoroughly renovated or demolished, and new single family dwellings are built of which many are for sale. The national government, the municipality and the housing associations, through policies that aim at gentrification, impose a utopian discourse of "good citizenship" on these allegedly dystopian estates. In this discourse, the good citizens are those tenants who actively participate in meetings and show a potential for upward social mobility. The paramount "good citizens" are those who are potential future home owners, as it is believed that owners invest in both their private property and the neighborhood as a whole. Tenants are prompted to change their life projects and to take responsibility in the redesign of their neighborhood in which their homes disappear and their social networks dissolve. I show how tenants, actively or passively, counter the ideal of the active and potentially home-owning citizen, as such contesting the formulations of good citizenship. Based on their life histories, and especially those experiences with the state and state-like actors, they develop alternate pictures of their relationship with the state, their political agency and their possibilities for the future. Through these pictures and their practices, they challenge the notions of citizenship inherent in the renewal policies.

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Urban renewal over the globe: the spatial dimensions of citizenship